When looking for ways to improve milk production or components oftentimes the focus is placed on adjusting small items in the ration, like increasing grams of metabolizable protein or metabolizable Lysine. But, frequently it’s the big picture items that offer the biggest areas of improvement, says Dr. Frank Janicki, technical sales specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition LLC.
“Before any ration adjustments are made it’s important to take a 30,000 feet look at the dairy,” he advises, noting that there are many non-feed related issues that impact milk production. “Purina Animal Nutrition Center research tells us that 35 percent of what contributes to fat corrected milk production is related to non-feed issues. In the real world it’s probably closer to 50 percent.”
To make sure non-feed related issues aren’t an issue when evaluating milk production potential, Janicki advises producers and nutritionists use these five tools:
1. Penn State Shaker Box (forage particle separator)
The Penn State Shaker Box provides information on how the feed is being delivered to the cow. This, Janicki points out, is directly related to rumen health and cud chewing.
“The Penn State Shaker Box can give you insights on whether enough effective fiber is being provided in the diet, particle length, TMR mixing efficiencies and if the cow is likely to sort the ration or not,” he says. “You want a ration, in terms of particle length, that’s not too fine and not too coarse.” Guidelines for a TMR are 2 to 8 percent on the top screen, 30 to 50 percent on the second screen, 30 to 50 percent on the third screen and < 20 percent in the bottom pan.
2. 1/16” Screen
Whether you grind corn or buy ground corn – there is variation in fineness. If corn isn’t ground properly, it will not be used efficiently by the cow.
Janicki suggests taking a sample of the ground corn and running it through a 1/16” screen to see how well the corn is ground. “A very practical tool you can use is found in your kitchen - a flour sifter or strainer. If more than 90 percent of ground corn passes through this size screen the grind is considered excellent. Eighty to 90 percent passing is considered very good. Seventy to 80 percent is considered good and <70 percent definitely needs improvement,” he says.
“Feeding corn that is ground too coarse results in decreased ruminal starch degradability and potential loss of milk production and decreased feed efficiency. Feeding too much corn that is ground too fine can result in increased ruminal starch degradability which can potentially result in decreased intake, off-feed issues, milk fat depression and lost milk production,” he says. “There is a large variation in corn grind from farm to farm. You need to know what you are working with when putting a ration together,” he says.